Sunday, November 15, 2009

Colour Palette | A Creative Component Of Brand Toolkit

Debiprasad Mukherjee, Techmahindra


Colour is one of the most crucial elements which impacts hugely in creating brand identity. The primary aim of a brand identity system is to encode a brand in customer’s memory and retrieve it from their memory. In a visual system, the two most powerful components are the consistent recognizable shapes and colours. (Brad VanAuken, It is considered as the best if these shapes and colours are distinctive, meaningful and appropriate (at least within the product category). Colour can have a significant effect on people's perception of a product or brand in terms of level of recognition & recalling. For instance, burgundy and forest green are perceived to be upscale while an orange label or package indicates an inexpensive item ( Colours can actually create an affect on a person's state of mind and cognitive ability as demonstrated by numerous research studies. For instance, pink is assumed to have the power to increase a person's appetite and calm prison inmates ( only that, if a brand is sold across the globe in different cultural zone, colours can have different symbolic meanings (not all positive) in different countries and cultures. If a brand is trying to create impact through visuals, it is basically sending certain messages about product or service through certain visual stimulating components what make it special and differentiates it from competing brands. And colour can act as the major X-factor behind the success of visual branding. Every colour sends a distinct message. This means that if a logo uses four colours, it is actually sending four different messages at once (John Williams, 2008, Even if the messages are complementary, few consumers can remember and associate that many ideas with your brand if the applied colour fails to trigger memory and evokes emotion. Colour greatly boosts brand recognition and plays a huge role in a consumer's choice of product if it as well-chosen in terms of brand identity creation and reinforcement of brand attributes.
Communicate through Colour
When consumers see the colours red, blue, or yellow, how do they react? Do they feel happy? Do they feel sad? Do they feel at peace? Do they feel angry? Does it create any impact at all? Yes. Colour can be an enormously powerful means of altering a mood (Sean Adams, The difference in effect between red and blue, between green and yellow, between black and white, is immense from brand identity creation point of view. Brands need to stand out from their competition. They need to be easily recognized. They need to create the right mood in the hearts and minds of their consumers. In a recent high profile court case, Cadbury attempted to stop competitor Darrell Lea from using the colour purple for the packaging of its products. Cadbury claimed that consumers associated their products with the colour purple and that Darrell Lea was therefore engaging in "misleading and deceptive conduct" in using a similar colour. Consumer reacts to certain colours depending on culture, religion, upbringing, and/or personality. Colour is vitally important when doing business and is the first visual impression and most instantaneous method of communication for conveying your marketing message and meaning. It helps in distinguishing a business from competitors and is an integral part of the brand identification process. Colour symbolizes abstract concepts and thoughts, expresses fantasy and wishes, recalls brand identity, triggers brand association, and produces emotional or visual responses. Colour as a primary aesthetic tool generates a sense of visual harmony which sustains and enhances customer's interest. Colour is a key element in communicating, enticing, and attracting people towards a brand. Often called the "silent salesperson," colour attracts your customer's eye, conveys the message of what your product/service is all about, creates brand identity, and, most importantly, helps you make a sale (Neil Zhu,, 2009).

Emotional impact of Colour
Colour is everywhere, from the green grass to the blue sky to the black night. Colour affects and influences us both emotionally and psychologically on all levels, whether it is personal or business. Certain colours have the ability to raise our blood pressure, cause our breathing to become rapid, increase our pulse rate, adrenaline, and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR). Beyond our control, transmitted to the brain is a chemical message that releases the hormone epinephrine that causes these physiological responses ( In business, smart entrepreneurs use this uncontrollable response to their advantage by studying the emotional impact specific colours have on the buying market. Colour influences every level, from the brand logo, image, signage, display, print materials, and the product itself. According to Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, executive director of the Carlstadt, NJ-based Pantone Color Institute, “60 to 70 percent of the buying decision is made at the point of purchase. With so many products vying for the consumer's money and attention, the effective use of colour is one way to capture their attention. Consumers are in an emotional mode when they shop. And when they are in an emotional mode, they are more visually attuned." With that in mind, every successful brand explored the emotional impact different colours have on the buying market.

Selection of Colour
Strategic colouring of a brand can revitalize and reinforce the brand image. Because consumers often take buying decisions on first impressions through the colour that your business that communicates to the public what your enterprise stands for straight way. “A new colour is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to communicate that something has changed,” says Allen P. Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates, a brand consultancy. “It signals the consumer to look at you with fresh eyes.” And, notes Al Ries, chairman of the branding consultancy Ries & Ries, a brand can be that much more memorable when associated with a specific colour that projects its own psychological and emotional stimulus. Adamson, the author of Brand Simple (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), says it’s important that the entire company be on board with the choice of colour. Colours should not be tied to any particular industry (though some may be better suited for some services/products than others). Some brands like eBay choose to go with many colours to represent variety — but one can also choose a couple of colours that work well together as brand demands. Most importantly, Consider differences in cultural interpretations of your colour. For example in the Western world, white is considered the colour of purity and peace, however, in some parts of Asia white is the colour of death. Designers should use colour to formulate special and unique brand identity strategies. By choosing a colour or a combination of colours for a brand identity, it will basically evoke certain emotions and feelings towards the brand.

Colour – Nothing but a Language
Colour is considered as universal language: Colour is considered as a universal language that crosses cultural boundaries as well as boundaries of our electronic/technical/satellite linked "Global Village." Colour helps to persuade and induce the customer to respond in a positive way to your marketing message. A brand can convey message properly to target segment through Brand Name, Logo, Packaging, Advertisements, Company website & office, even in Product itself.

Colour selection for a business or a brand should be targeted for proper demographic ( Colour selection should not be biased by own colour preferences, it should have a particular marketing message in mind also. It will be wiser to consider the psychology of colour when designing your marketing materials as colours not only enhances the impact of appearance of the item, also influences purchase behaviour (Lifen Yeh, Eric Min-Yang Wang, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan,
2007). Most of the fast food restaurants are decorated with vivid reds and oranges. Studies said that reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Many of the adult sites are having lot of reds and blacks as these colours are supposed to have sexual connotations (

Color is not at all a universal language: Color is a kind of language which is encoded and interpreted differently across the world based on sex, age, geography, culture etc. If a brand is planning to introduce a color to its logo and is dealing on a global level, may have disastrous results if the afore-said factors are not taken into consideration. What color works in one country or industry or brand may not work in another. Personal preferences usually cause brand disasters. It is necessary to look at the symbolism of any color scheme. Take purple for example: it symbolizes spirituality, mysticism, magic, faith, the unconscious, dignity, mystery, creativity, awareness, inspiration, passion, imagination, sensitivity, aristocracy & royalty, conceit, pomposity, cruelty, mourning and death. It is also the hardest color for the eye to discriminate. Consequently, purple is not a good color choice for the food industry but is an excellent choice for astrology, magic or spiritual businesses ( Few aspects of evaluation of colors are described below:
Cultural Aspect: - For example, white is the color of death in China, purple represents same in Brazil and Black in Germany. Yellow is sacred to the Chinese, but is sign of sadness in Greece and jealousy in France. In North America, green is associated with jealousy while green stands for holiness in Arab and in Malaysia, it is treated as the color of danger. Red is the color of strength in Scandinavia, color of love in USA but color of death in Africa.
Age Differences: - Generally Children prefer brighter colors, while adults prefer more subdued colors.
Class Differences: - As per marketing research in USA, working class people prefer colors blue, red, green, etc. While more highly educated classes goes for colors that are more obscure: like taupe, azure, mauve, etc. (Tom Altstiel, Advertising Strategy: Creative Tactics from the Outside/In, 2005)
Education Differences: - The more educated, the more sophisticated the taste, including color subtle color mixes, deeper tones, more elegant tints, more interesting color palettes where as less educated tend toward simpler, more straight forward colors (
Climate Difference: - People who live in warm climates prefer bright, strong colors, people who live in colder climates prefer cooler, more washed out colors (
Gender Differences: - Generally men prefer cooler colors (blues and greens) while women tend to prefer warmer colors (reds and oranges)
Trends: - Colors preference is sometimes depend on simply popularity. Colors tend towards seasonality and designs reflect the season they were built in: winter blacks, whites, and greys; spring greens and bright colors; summer yellows; (

Colour influences
Research conducted by the secretariat of the Seoul International Color Expo 2004 documented that 92.6 percent sample said that they give importance on visual factors when purchasing products and 84.7 percent of the total respondents think that colour is the most important factor for choosing products. Research reveals people make a subconscious judgment of product within 90 seconds of initial viewing and that between 62% and 90% of that assessment is based on colour alone (CCICOLOR - Institute for Color Research). Colour increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent (University of Loyola, Maryland study). Psychologists have documented that "living colour" does more than appeal to the senses. It also boosts memory for scenes in the natural world. Thus colour can be used as effective brand-recall weapon. (Source: The findings were reported in the May 2002 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, published by the American Psychological Association). Colour ads are read up to 42% more often than the same ads in black and white (White, Jan V., Color for Impact, Strathmoor Press, April, 1997). Colour can improve readership by 40 percent, learning from 55 to 78 percent, and comprehension by 73 percent. ("Business Papers in Color. Just a Shade Better", Embry, David, "The Persuasive Properties of Color", Marketing Communications, Johnson, Virginia, "The Power of Color", Successful Meetings).

Case Studies

The color red and the name Virgin are well linked in the minds of customers across the globe. Virgin did lot of R&D to ensure that exactly the proper red appears on their publicity materials, trains, cola cans and company vans. it helped consumers instantly identify a Virgin company or a Virgin product. Virgin finds this important enough that the company produces an eighteen-page guide to ensure ‘Virgin Red’ links all the company’s activities.

The name NIVEA itself derived from the Latin terms "nivis" and "snow." Similarly, to maintain a look of freshness and cleanliness, the designers used the color blue. When the blue was introduced in 1925 this was also a socially acceptable color as it had no links to political parties.
In 1915, when the Shell Company of California built their first service stations, they choose bright colors as it would not offend the Californians because of strong Spanish connections. The Shell emblem - or Pecten - remains one of the greatest brand symbols in the 21st Century.

There's a predominance of black (sophistication) and silver (prestige) in Jaguar logo. Jaguar markets to people with high incomes who view themselves as sophisticated and look for a prestigious vehicle.

Samuel and Company first shipped kerosene to the Far East in tin containers painted red. In 1915, when the Shell Company of California built their first service stations, they choose bright colors as it would not offend the Californians because of strong Spanish connections. The Shell emblem - or Pecten - remains one of the greatest brand symbols in the 21st Century.

There's a predominance of black (sophistication) and silver (prestige) in Jaguar logo. Jaguar markets to people with high incomes who view themselves as sophisticated and look for a prestigious vehicle.

The evolution of IBM logo depicts confidence, value, quality and innovative technology for its customers. Black tint is used graciously in the IBM logo, which is one of the most professional colors

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